Every Tuesday is half-price day for senior citizens at the giant marketplace in the small town of Wizen. The profusion of white-haired customers can be seen from afar. Youngsters wisely stay away to avoid being mowed down by the daring octogenarians on their motorized shopping carts. They drive those with the same recklessness they display on the roads. The marketplace is buzzing with activity on Tuesdays. The owners are proud of their reputation for taking care of the growing population of senior citizens in Wizen. The free publicity is a by-product that they never expected when they began to cater to this age group. Their profits are growing and they celebrate the win/win situation.
Emmalou, our protagonist, is 73. She still feels young and dresses a bit seductively on Tuesdays. It is the only day she has any energy at all for going out. Every other day finds her inspecting her closet for the outfit she will wear the following Tuesday. Emmalou thinks she has a secret admirer. In fact, it is she who secretly admires a young man in the marketplace, the stock clerk who is working two jobs to pay off his family’s debt while nurturing fantasies of creating his own music studio. Unfortunately for him, his schedule and lack of seniority at work do not allow him to consider applying for a loan until the debt is paid off. It depresses him to think that by that time, he might himself be shopping on discount Tuesdays.
Emmalou’s heart flutters whenever she even thinks about him. She catches her breath when she bumps into him in the aisles as he is stocking the shelves. His demeanor is always pleasant. His face is so handsome she could stare at him all day long. He is the first person she looks for when she enters the store. She is convinced he pays special attention to her as he escorts her from aisle to aisle checking off the items on her list. Emmalou has never asked his name and now that several years have passed, she feels too embarrassed to do so. She knows she cannot ask anyone about him because her secret would be exposed. She doesn’t worry for herself. She knows there must be a powerful reason he continues to work there as a simple stock boy and doesn’t want to jeopardize his job.
Although Emmalou wonders about his situation she is happy whatever it is, it has kept him a part of her life all these years. She looks forward to Tuesdays at the marketplace, the fluttering in her stomach is a welcome change after a week of nothingness. She knows she might be a full 40 years older than her young man, but that’s how it goes. When she was a professional, some of her patrons were a full 40 years older than she! She blushes at the memory, her heart constricted imagining his reaction if he knew the permissive past that had allowed her to purchase, renovate and furnish the apartment she owns just blocks away from the marketplace.
The stairs that led to her cozy apartment seemed harder to climb that Tuesday. She felt a sharp pain in one of her legs as she reached the top step but she took a deep breath and bravely forced herself to walk slowly without putting down the shopping bags she was carrying. Her fingers searched inside the pocket of her skirt for her keys. She opened the door and stood still for a moment before losing consciousness at the threshold.
When Emmalou opened her eyes she did not know where she was. The long-lasting ceiling stain she was familiar with from the upstairs flooding all those years ago was absent. She found herself alone in a small room with a needle in her arm and an oxygen mask covering her nose. She tried not to panic when she found she could not remember anything. Her voice was weak when she tried to speak. It took a while before she understood that she was in a hospital. She forced herself to remain calm but made frantic gestures when a nurse approached her bed to look at the numbers on the modern monitors above the bed. The nurse smiled but remained silent as she went about her routine. She patted Emmalou’s hand and told her that the doctor would visit her shortly. Emmalou waited until the nurse left before she succumbed to the tears she had held back. She allowed herself to cry for a moment, unsure what it was she was crying about. Then she must have dozed off because it was dark when she was conscious again.
The doctor’s voice was soothing. Emmalou opened her eyes and focused on him to understand what he was saying. A sudden drop in her blood pressure caused the fainting. When she fell, her head hit the side of a can of fruit cocktail inside her shopping bag. She rolled down the stairs and broke her right leg. She confirmed this when she saw the cast. He had no explanation for what has caused the week-long coma. Her neighbors were very concerned, he said. A different friend visited every day. Although her test results came back normal she would need some physical therapy once the cast was removed. He expected she would make a full recovery.
All Emmalou could think about after this exchange was whether the stockboy noticed her absence on Tuesday. She felt silly but the spark of joy in her heart at the thought of him made her feel more alive than ever. Her eyelids grew heavy and she surrendered to a deep sleep that accompanied a serene dream of picnics in the park with her beloved. When she woke up, her dinner tray was on her table. She ate every bite with renewed energy. The nurse informed her that she would not be allowed to return to her apartment until the cast came off because it was too dangerous. She also could not remain in the hospital because they needed the bed. Besides, who wants to stay in an environment filled with germs and bad food, the nurse kidded.
Emmalou was grateful she had allowed her agent to talk her into expensive, additional insurance that would cover her extended stay at a nearby aftercare facility until she could return home. She was actually looking forward to the pampering she knew one of her friends had received after undergoing reconstructive surgery not long ago. The doctor told her the physical therapy she would need could be undertaken at the same facility. Emmalou was thrilled about it and looked forward to getting back to Tuesdays at the market eventually. She reasoned that the time away from her secret love would make him grow fonder by the day. She smiled at her own foolishness but was privately amused by her wild imagination and saw no harm in letting her mind nurture “blissful thoughts”!
The days passed slowly but the weeks seemed to go quickly. Emmalou was assigned a physical therapist to assist her in regaining her ability to walk. She was looking forward to getting started although part of her anticipated the progress would be slow and painful. When her therapist arrived, she could hardly believe her eyes. She knew the face in an instant. It was the same handsome stock boy from the Tuesday marketplace. Their eyes locked for a moment giving way to what would appear a synchronized intoxication to anyone passing by. Their magical spell was broken by the manager of the facility when she made the introductions. Emmalou finally learned the name of her admirer, or more accurately, of the one she admired. His name was Lorenzo. She detected a slight accent which almost made her swoon. She tried to concentrate on his words but she was unable to think straight and fell into his arms when she tried to take her first steps. She was mortified. But he smiled with genuine warmth as he said “Miss Emmalou, you need to regain your strength so we can see each other on Tuesdays, like before.”
Lorenzo’s full story would unfold in due course. She smiled at the memory of his visit and promised herself she would do all the exercises he assigned her so she could get back to her old routine. She never slept better than that night.